After my associate Phil Nobile Jr. and I spent two increasingly-tedious months recapping True Detective's second season last year, I feel like I've spent more time thinking about, discussing, and considering the series' sophormore season than anyone I know. And as such, I feel unusually confident while delivering the following verdict: other than several exceptional performances and the occasional moment of inspired weirdness, True Detective S2 was mostly a wash.
The prevailing wisdom holds that series creator and writer Nic Pizzolatto is to blame for that decline in quality, but HBO Programming President Michael Lombardo has a different theory. In a new interview, Lombardo is asked, basically, what went wrong with True Detective S2, to which Lombardo says:
I’ll tell you something. Our biggest failures — and I don’t know if I would consider True Detective 2 — but when we tell somebody to hit an air date as opposed to allowing the writing to find its own natural resting place, when it’s ready, when it’s baked — we’ve failed. And I think in this particular case, the first season of True Detective was something that Nic Pizzolatto had been thinking about, gestating, for a long period of time. He’s a soulful writer. I think what we did was go, “Great.” And I take the blame. I became too much of a network executive at that point. We had huge success. “Gee, I’d love to repeat that next year.”
Well, you know what? I set him up. To deliver, in a very short time frame, something that became very challenging to deliver. That’s not what that show is. He had to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. Find his muse. And so I think that’s what I learned from it. Don’t do that anymore.
What a twist! It was HBO's fault all along.
This is an interesting thing for a President of Programming to be telling people, and I admire the honesty of it. There was absolutely nothing stopping this dude from saying, "'What went wrong?' Are you kidding? We loved it, and we're gonna do even more of it, so suck on that". That's generally the approach you see with these sorta situations. For Lombardo to admit that, yeah, the network wanted a follow-up, and maybe they should've given the show's writer more time to get something worthwhile on the page...pretty baller move, guys.
And yet, there's still blame to go around. My suspicion is that, if Pizzolatto approached the network and told them, "These scripts are underbaked, try-too-hard nonsense that could be greatly improved with another six months' tinkering", HBO would've given him that much.
As for whether or not we'll see another season, Lombardo sounds optimistic...and willing to give Pizzolatto his space:
And I’d love to have the enviable certainty of knowing what my next year looks like. I could pencil things in. But I’m not going to start betting on them until the scripts are done.
Well, that's good then. At the very least, we'll now know precisely who to blame if season three sucks.
How about you folks? Ready to give True Detective a third at-bat, or did your enthusiasm die somewhere on Fuck Mountain?